The UK’s fish-and-chip businesses are under significant strain as vital commodities like cod and cooking oil skyrocket due to Russia’s war on Ukraine.
According to Andrew Crook, head of the National Federation of Fish Friers, up to one-third of the country’s nearly 10,000 fish-and-chip eateries might close in the next nine months. The situation is at its peak.
The trade association, which has been in operation for almost a century, represents 1,200 fish-and-chip shops. Crook, who runs his own business, said prices began to rise at the end of last year, but fundamental ingredients have skyrocketed since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February.
“Everything has gone up,” Crook stated.
Businesses across industries are grappling with rising pricing as supply chain snarls are worsened by the Ukraine conflict. However, due to the industry’s reliance on Russian imports, British fish and chip businesses, which have continuously operated on very thin margins, are experiencing a particular pinch.
According to Crook, up to 40% of the industry’s cod and haddock originate from the Russian seas, and approximately half of its sunflower oil is imported from Ukraine.
According to Crook, businesses are paying around 83 percent more for sunflower oil than in early March. Palm oil, a frequent substitute, has more than quadrupled in price. Indonesia, the world’s largest palm oil exporter, began limiting exports last month to help sustain local supplies.
Adding to the misery are skyrocketing electricity expenditures and skyrocketing fertilizer prices required to cultivate potatoes.
Fish and chips is an unofficial national dish of the United Kingdom. According to the trade association, the first stores emerged in the 1860s and proliferated swiftly as the country industrialized, helping to feed manufacturing employees. Because the meal was so crucial to the working people, it was spared from rationing during World War II, even if other basics like tea, butter, pork, fish, and chips were.
Customers expect their fish and chips to be inexpensive, according to Crook. Crook estimates that a typical fish and chips would have cost around £7 a year ago. He now expects it to be roughly £8.50, a 21% rise.
“We risk pricing ourselves out of the market…we’re trying to keep increases as low as possible,” Crook explained. Some people have already walked away.
“I’ve lost a few regulars who used to come every Friday,” he continued.
Fears that the UK government may impose hefty import taxes on Russian white fish have prompted firms to store up on alternatives, raising the price of the Icelandic and Norwegian fish that Crook purchases even higher.
A case of Icelandic cod currently costs £270 ($331), up from £140 ($176) this time last year, according to Crook.
Businesses like Crook’s confront a difficult challenge in selling fish and chips to clients who are experiencing the biggest cost-of-living crisis in decades. According to the Bank of England, annual consumer price inflation reached 7% in March, the highest level in 30 years, and might reach 10% later this year.
According to a Federation of Small Firms poll, more than half a million small businesses in the UK — almost one in ten — expect to close, downsize, or sell up in the next year as many struggles to acquire finance.
Crook is invested in the fate of his shop.
“It is more than a job. Many of us have taken over family companies “He stated. “I’m the second generation in the family business, and you don’t want it to fail on your watch.”